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Hart to Hart: Night Horrors (1980)
Professor Plum, with the Knife, in the Conservatory.
The Harts are invited to a dinner party treasure hunt at the new (and haunted) home of their eccentric friends. My kind of show! However, they trot out every single trope in the horror genre manual before the first five minutes were even done. Lightening, thunder, creaky door, cobwebby suits of armor, creepy room, and creepier butler gliding around like one of Buffy's Gentlemen spouting a Lugosi "Gud Eeeevening" while back-lit to hell and gone. Neither J nor J are too thrilled to be there, but since they stay, so do I. I was sure this was going to be a Ten Little Indians/Then There Were None kind of thing, but then it became apparent that it was far more Clue than Agatha Christie. I'll take this moment to encourage you to go watch Clue the Movie, cuz it's totally brilliant (Madeline Khan was a god).
The cast of guest characters have great potential, but the awful writing and direction leaves them and the whole episode flat. Bill and Jo LaMond penned this one. Some great lines include Jonathan's double entendre of "I do most of my working out at home," and Jennifer's follow up of, "He's in excellent shape;" as well as near the end when the butler says, "Happy hunting, sir," and the host replies with the immediate, "You're fired" deadpan. Fred Stuthman & Arlen Dean Snyder delivered those lines with beautiful timing. Tiny little exchange, huge impact. Unfortunately, the bad lines were awful. The LaMonds wrote one of the best (Harts under Glass) but also the very worst episode in H2H history, "Homemade Murder," plus "Bahama Bound Harts," which is another serious stinker. This was definitely tons better than both of those. It was Ray Austin's direction, however, that was truly atrocious. Dark lighting crippled this thing. Clue was this very same kind of storytelling, yet those scenes didn't need to be dark to pull off the suspense and creep factor. It wasn't simply that I didn't care for the art direction, I mean the lighting was incompetent. The camera shots are one piece of crazy after another. Long lingering closeups so extreme that I could inspect their pores. I'm pretty sure the shot of the host's head on a platter lasted an hour. I swear poor Arlen Dean Snyder's eyeballs needed some visine when Austin yelled cut. Shots through candles made me feel like I'd purchased obstructed view concert tickets. Terrible camera work at the dining room table. Beginning on J&J, then pulling out into a bird's eye wide shot of everyone seated around it had huge potential as a very compelling shot. But it's so shaky it was just unprofessional. I assume it was poor use of a jib, cuz I'm not sure a crane shot indoors would have resulted in the shaking camera. It was inexcusable, really. Nothing was worse, however, than the way these poor actors were directed. It was veeery clear that they were DIRECTED into these awful performances, because they were all equally bad, uncomfortable silences, and unexplained reactions. They all have these frozen looks of hand- over-mouth horror for no good reason, the strange characters played by Mews Small and Nina van Pallandt have these behaviors that make zero sense, and the whole thing is just one big hot mess.
One of the things I probably hate most about this ep is that Stefanie's wearing a fur and I'm quite sure she hates it now, too. It's not like her or Jennifer at all and she wears it in half the scenes. William Holden was not dead yet, but it's not like her views had changed overnight on that. Interesting to be a fly on the wall at that wardrobe session.
On the upside, while the front hall of this place looked like a redress of the Hart's foyer, the episode's exteriors were filmed at the famed Piru Mansion. Gorgeous. You can visit there today. Even get married. Also cool? A thousand and one blooper alerts.
BLOOPER ALERT --> When they're still gathering, the light goes out and then the final female guest show up. Timing is off, as Jonathan asks if someone forgot to pay the light bill, THEN everyone gasps and the light goes out.
BLOOPER ALERT Blink-and-you-miss-it jump cut. When the Morty the Minister (there ya go, Seinfeld lovers) is putting Jennifer in the closet, look very closely at his right hand on the coat hook, you'll see frames are clearly missed there. My son caught this one.
BLOOPER ALERT - Butler clearly can't drag RJ to the dumbwaiter, so RJ has to help while unconscious. This leads to an awful shot that's just all dark extreme closeup jumble of, literally, nothing (which is probably because, again, poor dude can't lift RJ onto the dumbwaiter any more than he can drag him there).
Picky picky: Torches in the secret passage? Really? Who lit them? How do they stay lit? And the headstones of the graveyard (conveniently located in the home's backyard) were something straight out of Disney's Haunted Mansion. Ugh.
I guess what I come down to in this cathartic bit of review therapy is that this episode is really freaking imperfect but totally worth watching. If not for the bloopers, then at least for the Clue Hart to Hart factor. The hosts are Miss Scarlet and Colonel Mustard, the medium woman is uptight Mrs. White, The curly-haired lush is loony Mrs. Peacock, Morty the Minister is shifty Mr. Green, the author is studious Professor Plum, the butler is the butler, and the Harts are the players getting shoved into secret passages as they try to figure it all out.
Hart to Hart: Which Way, Freeway? (1980)
Two woofs are better than one
There's a ton going on in this first and best Freeway-based episode. Some of it great, some of it fun, some of it silly, some of it stupid; but ultimately, it's very watchable. Right away you get a beautiful shot tracking around the full depth of the kitchen that culminates in Jennifer in a bunny costume. Why is she in a bunny costume? Cuz they want us to say, OMG, she's adorable in that bunny costume. Yes, there's a plot point of them having a charity event for animals (that makes up for the Night Horrors fur), but they never get there and just trust me, it's solely meant to make you look at Stefanie in the bunny costume. It's effective, too, cuz she's adorable. The plight of Freeway's doggie girlfriend, Susie, gets us invested pretty quickly. The Harts do what they do for all creatures in their sphere and take responsibility for her (even though they know the owner), get her to the vet, and then return her right into the lap of the bad guys. Incidentally, the Larchmont Pet Clinic really exists, and the sign hasn't changed a lick since 1980. Soon Freeway's safety is threatened, and I spent the rest of the episode terrified for the dogs. Well done stuff with the interaction of the two pooches on screen. Not so well done were the frequent use of unnecessary dubs over scene transitions and lazy, reused shots. For instance, it doesn't take my critical eye to notice that Jennifer's reaction shots in the living room when Freeway first comes back are clearly from the earlier kitchen scenes. I mean, blatantly obvious. But there's also a very unique chase scene in golf carts that had me pretty impressed midway thru the ep that made me forgive. This show will constantly remind us that Jonathan is fabulous at absolutely everything; as a business magnate, that golf is one of them should be a surprise to no one. In this case, RJ didn't have to fake it, he really hit that golf ball, and we all get to see it sail from stroke to green in the nicely executed long shot. The entire set of golf locations scenes were great, expertly crafted, and all three of them looked like they were having a serious hoot filming them. There's also J&J gold in this ep via the clear communicating they do with each other solely in their subtle glances. I also about howled when I saw Peggy Pope again as a maid AGAIN!!! She'll be another maid in a couple more years in "Hart & Sole." This woman has the market cornered on maid roles, seriously, I laughed out loud. Then there's the bad guy's line to the bad guy girlfriend; her character is Eileen, and as soon as he says, "come on, Eileen," you know you'll be hearing Dexy the rest of the day.
Blooper Alert --> Last act, Jonathan calls the dead man Stuart Baldwin instead of the character's actual name, Steven. Also in that scene, not a blooper, but the wine bottle is in some kind of silver service holder thingie, and it just kind of blew my mind.
I didn't love the climax of J&J swiping the luggage tram. Like the taking of the fire truck, it was gratuitous and made even worse when Jonathan threw all the luggage around. As a traveler, that's a huge turn off for me; but Stef is really driving the thing. In the end, it was very, very Hart to Hart. But I'm left genuinely sad, because I know we never see Susie again. That just begs the question
is she OK, where does she go, and since the Harts have more money than god, why can't she stay?
Winner, Winner, WINNER.
This. Was. AWESOME. I didn't remember it, it was brand new to me, I smiled the moment the thing began, and did not stop until the very last credit rolled. The episode gets right down to business establishing a relationship with Jonathan's long-time business tenant, a magazine vendor on the busy Hart Industries property. And OMG, veteran actress Jeannette Nolan is so good. She's soooo good from the word go. Written poorly this would have been a Mary Sue story. But she's not an interloper, she's a valid person in their lives that they clearly care about. That we haven't seen her before takes nothing away from that because of the superb marriage of writing, directing, and acting. The plot surrounding her is written as a vehicle for Jonathan's altruistic nature, not as a one for the guest character, so you bond to this woman immediately because you feel the utter affinity that Jonathan has for her. RJ positively soars here. His affection for and amusement in her his emotional investment into her well-being are subtly played by him to the point where you just can't help but feel a fierce protectiveness over her, literally, right away. Shortly thereafter, Jameson Parker brings his cutie patootie mug to the bad guy role, hating him is easy, and a plot is born.
The office scenes were light, H2H goodness, because a) any episode with Deanne AND Stanley is a win, and b) Jennifer's hair was extra poofy, which was right on trend for this second episode of the brand new decade. We learn quickly that the vendor, Rose, is being blackmailed, and our hackles go right up for her. I loved the abject willingness Jonathan has to help her, but so refreshing was Rose as a very unique kind of woman. She's terrified, but she's no slouch and takes no handouts. Jeannette plays her so convincingly that the layers are there without needing a bit of exposition. I also had big love for how seriously they took the props. This stock certificate for Hart Industries is gorgeous. I'm sure they didn't create it from scratch and is just a blank stock cert mocked up for the show, they could have gotten lazy but didn't; the detail shows so much respect for the audience and the material. For those like me who have kittens over this stuff, Hart Industries' incorporation is established as March 30th, 1969. When I was a fetus. I was in hog heaven and we're not even ten minutes in.
Pairing Rose and Max as equal parts old married couple and siblings that got on each other's very last nerve was like a treat you didn't know your grandma was going to be bringing you. From the second Max learns she's going to have to be in the house with him it's a string of crazy good verbosity. The Rosie, Bozo, and Bimbo banter was brilliance on a stick. Every bit of screen time between these two was GREAT. Effortless. I'll bet real money that these two were in other shows together, because their timing was second to none. I never wanted this to end.
The guest stars were all stellar. The fencing coach was utterly authentic, the real estate agent is like who's on first, and the sorority girls crushing on Jonathan nearly put me into hysterics. Cindy Grover as the key to it all wasn't so great, but that Mork from Ork and Simon more than made up for it.
RJ's confrontation in the gym with patootie was subtle until it wasn't, and it was gorgeous. The house they go snooping in is a set that would be used time and again on this show, but that's no problem, because the whole undercover thing was adorable. Admittedly, the sound editing kind of sucked when they went back to the house, but oh well.
Very impressive blocking in the final showdown. Not with the swords, which were a lot of clack, clack, clack, clack, with RJ's free arm in the completely wrong spot and no real fencing skill, typical TV fencing. I mean with the kicking away of the gun. It was like the most perfect kick, nice job Jameson.
Jeannette's mid-show soliloquy was truly a masters class in the craft. And the real estate agent bit was funny stuff.
BLOOPER ALERT --> Minor, but on his way out of the room when he discovers the gun missing from the drawer, Lionel walks into the door jamb on the right.
This one was all wrapped up in a nice little bow at the end, which I'm usually not a fan of, but in this case, it was perfect. A total ten.
Lurch almost Stole the Show
Not one of their strongest episodes, but "The Man with the Jade Eyes" is solidly entertaining. One of the great things about H2H is that most of their eps introduce you one at a time to a singular microcosm of society. Here we get to see a little slice of the Oriental Trading catalog meets Chinatown. We open on a clearly bad guy chauffeur with a menacing scar on his eye and an equally menacing I-don't-need-no-stinking-patches attitude. He's basically Lurch, and he will have some great interaction with J&J in this ep that truly shows off their physical comedy chops especially Stefanie's. Now halfway into the season, we're fairly used to people falling dead at the Harts' feet, thus necessitating that they get involved, and this ep is no different. The Rolls is strategically placed at the get go, so it's no surprise when the Chinese Hotai statue the poor guy dies over is stuffed into the backseat. What is surprising is that I wasn't really sure there were any good guys here at all until the very end. Loved seeing James Hong! This uber prolific character actor plays his holy man character with seriously creepy goodness. This man has been in everything and continues to do so at nearly 87yo! His filmography is unreal. I also very much enjoyed the performance of Donna Kei Benz, who transformed from Femme Fatale to Girl-Next-Door and back again in about four seconds flat. It's too bad that she hasn't worked in decades, she was talented. I got a huge kick out of the librarian, because, clearly, she was not an actress, but she gave it all she had! Also appreciated peeks into Max's and Jennifer's characters; Max just hops right to it like it was a request for a cup of coffee when Jonathan told him to engage in some reconnaissance. And Jennifer refers to the opium wars as if everyone knows about them, because, of course, SHE does, is very learned, and is entirely unpretentious about it. We also learn that she has a nephew. Since she has no siblings, however (right?), I'm not sure how he was conceived. Lots of location eye-candy, here, too. Like the restaurant, Ming See, that seemed to be located in the middle of a crappy alley (read: back lot). House of 1001 Pleasures was the gift that just kept on giving here, too, with one innuendo after another and a great line by Jennifer. I tried figuring out what location served as this place, cuz it seemed too extensive to be a set. Tip: Don't google "House of 1001 Pleasures" and expect not to get porn. Just letting you know. Silly me, though, it had to be a set; the Asian history library, however, seemed kind of legit. I also love any line that lends itself to the in-joke that their serial Nancy Drew'ness; so Jonathan saying, "As a matter of fact, I don't know why we're involved in this, do you?" and Jennifer's clear reaction to the contrary were gold. These little things make me giddy. Not great here is a pre- Knight Rider/post-The Ghost & Mrs. Muir Edward Mulhare. He's awful. A serious cartoon in the middle of an otherwise decent episode. Scarface: Lurch Edition would have stolen the whole show if it wasn't for my favorite part of this thing, which was, without a doubt every scene happening in their bed. It's the second time somewhat in succession, here, where Jennifer is sitting at an injured Jonathan's bedside, and she continues to relate to him with intelligently crafted warmth. She takes care of him but doesn't coddle him. Just like the last bedside carebear scene, there are no dramatics here, nothing over the top or silly. It draws the viewer in and makes you feel the nature of their relationship, and it's superb. Then the kicker's bedhead pillow talk just makes you smile.
Hart to Hart: Color Jennifer Dead (1980)
Tootsie Owes Mankiewicz a Royalty
I have only the vaguest recollection of this episode, specifically the masquerade at the end; but honestly, that might be due to the opening clips and not a memory of the story, itself. This might have been a good episode, but after two times through it, I remain hopelessly distracted by the fact that Jennifer looks like something straight out of "Tootsie." I mean, she is the spitting image of Dustin Hoffman as Michael Dorsey/Dorothy Michaels. Or more accurately, since this ep pre-dates the movie's filming date by at least a full year, he's the spitting image of her. The dress is, literally, identical. The Tootsie hair is clearly evocative of Jennifer's in this portrait, the entire carriage of their bodies in that specific imagery is too exact to be a coincidence, and there's no way that Sydney Pollack and Columbia Pictures don't owe Tom Mankiewicz some kind of royalty. Anyway, I just couldn't get past it enough to focus. What's more, IMO the painting of Jennifer is really awful. BLOOPER ALERT --> Very first shot of the bad guy in the back of his clown car, he is clearly reading cue cards or for some insane reason looking into the camera instead of at the enforcer character he's supposed to be talking to. Huge pet peeve. I was also put off by the random girlfriend that said very emphatically that they were "lovers." Was "boyfriend" too archaic a word? Not groovy enough? Terrible scripting there. She even made their relationship sound illicit. Totally weird. Ya know what I loved, though, Richard B. Schull in the first of three outings he'll have as Lt. Gillis. I liked him better than the 2nd guy, though admittedly Richard Herd's character brought a nice layer to the H2H fabric. But it was Melissa Steinberg as Gillis's girlfriend that made me giggle. She's random, for sure, but she was a fresh air of comedy that wasn't goofy. From her posture to the way she pawed at Jennifer, the girl was adorably funny, and I wanted more of her! Walker Texas Ranger fans will enjoy seeing Noble Willingham here. It's randomly occurred to me that a) the Japanese steakhouse experience has not changed in 30 years, and b) taking a drink every time Jonathan says, "are you alright?" would make a good drinking game. Best part of the episode is without a doubt the bathroom scene in their towels. On its face, it's ridiculous that Max would come into their bathroom while Jennifer is naked but for this towel around herself and they all three of them just act like it's nothing. But something about it just works. It's part of the suspension of disbelief for the Hart universe, you just have to say, OK; but it's also kind of authentic, because the actors make you believe that this is all just their innocently familial way in that family. As for the story itself? Pretty solid, really. The bad guy's got a valid motivation, they got there well, the masquerade had a pretty great stunt, and the costumes were fantastic though most of them were timeless, the music brought you right back to 1979. In the end, it was one of those predictable episodes that you don't mind for its predictability; instead you kind of wrap yourself up in it and say, ahhh. Unless you're me and distracted by Tootsie.
Hart to Hart: This Lady Is Murder (1980)
Stefanie shines as her immediate and opposite doppelganger
One of the few episodes I remember in detail from the original run. What starts out a standard kidnapping story ends up one being a hell of an adorable romp. Stefanie Powers plays not only Jennifer, but also her doppelganger, Dominique. So dead a ringer they are for each other that the kidnappers nab the wrong woman, then spend half the episode stupidly running after their ransom like fools. This case of mistaken identity gives Stefanie such an opportunity to spread her wings. Though this was only the beginning of H2H, playing the same character for five solid years may or may not have made Stefanie itch for some variety. If so, then it's nice that she got to show a lot of range, here, because Dominique could not be any further from Jennifer. Her makeup and hair were just the start and I did love the use of her hair; soft and feminine for Jennifer, severe and dominating for Dominique. Clearly a purposeful representation of the characters. Even without the obvious cosmetic differences, Stefanie stepped into a whole different affect, and she made it look effortless. From her movements to the intensity of her gaze, you never doubt for one moment the veracity of the Dominique character or forget that she's not Jennifer. Her can't-be-bothered indignance is outmatched only by the insouciance she wears like a fine garment. Her dynamic with Jonathan is so fun -- I love what a shameless flirt she is, how she delights in messing with him, and how he must be on his toes at all times to keep up with her. I loved her continued use of "Banana Brain," especially on the phone with the kidnappers. My favorite line in the episode just follows this actually, "Well, it's delightful to talk to you, Jimmy, but it sounds as if you've had one too many peanuts," reminding us that we're still well-within the Carter administration. Interestingly, this is the second episode in a row I'm reviewing where Jonathan kisses a woman who isn't Jennifer. Unlike the last one ("With This Gun, I Thee Wed"), I liked this one a lot. Not because the actress is still Stefanie, but because it makes entirely more sense. The lead up felt right, the circumstances felt right, the writing was sound, and the motivation just felt entirely more authentic. It's a whole season later, so that time for settling into characterization didn't hurt. And the kicker was so good it was like a deep breath you didn't know you needed. It was the conversation they should have had in the bathtub of that other episode. This is Stefanie's episode, she does a really beautiful job here, but shout out to the brilliance of Andy Robinson (ST: DS9, Dirty Harry). This guy is always all in. No role too small for him to make a real impression. Watch his expressions, his body language, the intonation of his voice, his sweet simplicity. Even his his walk screams dumb, sweet, good guy at heart. This is why I love him. As an old car lover, I could not get enough of that junkyard, which practically made me weep. I think I saw a c1945 Ford truck! I was also really impressed with what looked like the real RJ rolling off the bad guy's car in the close up shot. Didn't care for Jon Cutler in his first of three appearances as the most hapless cop ever, maybe he'll grow on me in the next two. And picky picky, I don't think $500k is going to fit in that small duffel. Not so picky, that split screen at the end. It was kind of dizzying, as you can absolutely see the unmatching two halves of the shot. It's really close, but the light doesn't quite match (shadows on the right-hand couple), and the backgrounds shift away from each other, creating a nauseating visual effect. Excellent effort, however, with a location shot in natural light, so I give it a pass. Loved this episode.
This is a mess
I sat on this one before I reviewed it, because I didn't want any knee-jerk reactions. My objective opinion is that while there are gems making this a must-watch, I'm ultimately left scratching my head. This is gonna be a long review; might wanna get a cup of coffee.
We open on a random poker game with Tommy Lasorda (as himself). Before you know it, a mystery is afoot, that's it for the then- prolific Dodgers manager, and the Hart's are headed out to Monaco for the wedding of Jonathan's ex-girlfriend. The envelopes started getting pushed right off the bat, here, with the airborne plane angled up. On its face, it's just a shot of the plane, but I can't help but get a phallic feel with the intention of setting our expectations for something messy.
My jaw dropped several times throughout the hour, beginning with a crazy-ass stunt off the back of a car that seriously concerned me. Soon Jonathan is climbing a trellis so he can save his ex, the bride, played nicely by Christine Belford who looks so much like several other actresses (Kate Mulrew, Jacklyn Smith, Ellen Burstyn). For me, this whole scene in her bedroom was, honestly, completely strange, though the strangeness is very interesting. It felt very familiar between Jonathan and his ex. Very much like former lovers. They stood so near each other, and there was a real sense of trust between them that I could actually feel as the viewer. Part of me enjoyed seeing Jonathan thru the lens of this relationship. But my guess is that most J&J fans will not appreciate it, because they're not going to want to see either J or J's implied, very personal history with someone else. They just won't. For me, the scene was very uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as when they kissed. Which was a shock. I audibly gasped and uttered a few choice words and about fell over. There's a reason they kiss, but I suspect that the J&J purists are going to feel pure, unmitigated hatred for this poor actress caught in a miasma of fangirliness that she never could have expected. No one, including me, wants to see Jonathan kiss another woman. Remembering my objectivity As scripted, this kiss was a ruse meant to protect her from her blackmailing fiancé. As a means to an end, that's a plausible way to go. But in the situation as written, it seemed gratuitous nothing but a convoluted excuse to make Jonathan care about another woman, remember another woman, kiss another woman. Why? So that the audience will react? I have no idea how they reacted back in the day, but judging from the rabid reaction to what I think is a brilliant episode, "Hartstruck," my guess is that the reaction was probably the most hated of any scene ever of H2H. For me, give me an end that truly justifies these means, and I'm going to accept the kiss. But even I, as one who can see the forest for the trees on extra-curricular kisses, do not see this need at all. It's just not there. If the threat was different maybe, but having the man find Jonathan kissing his fiancée seems WORSE than just finding him like a stray about the room. Jonathan can hide in the bathroom. In a closet. Or even back down the freaking trellis. Maybe there just wasn't time. Maybe the dogs would have sniffed him out. I'm not saying the motivation is non-existent, I'm saying it's lame. Definitely not character-driven.
Now if you're a fan that hates this to the point where you might bust a vein, there are real gems here that make this episode worth watching. For one thing, the really epic hand-holding as they stroll down the massive hall of the Monaco hotel. And then there's the bathtub scene. They pulled out every stop they could with the censors, here, cuz that bathtub was spell-it-out-sex. Was it an apology? She seemed annoyed at the situation, rather than at her husband, but there was a sure reluctance there, regardless. Read: punishment. "Jonathan, move your foot." You know where that foot was, and she was having none of it. All of this is fascinating. Jonathan holding so fiercely to Jennifer's hand was so significant that it was actually the camera's focus. A show of his devotion to his wife through the intimacy of their bonded hands. Then her refusal to completely acquiesce to his possibly apology- driven charm in that bathtub. Every moment in that bathtub was adorable, though. Any way you slice it, all of that was a great payoff for fans after that horrible kiss.
BLOOPER ALERT --> Stef's body stocking is clearly visible across her chest beneath the bubbles as she inhales deeply just before the last time she tells Jonathan to move his foot. Look hard, you'll see it. Almost as awesome as that is Jonathan reading Marie Claire. I spent a stupid amount of time looking for this issue of Marie Claire. It's in French, but for the life of me, I couldn't find it.
Other messy elements I hated in this episode included pleats, that outfit's awful butter color that was terrible on Stefanie, bad dubs in the pool scene, and the heinous line, "Go to San Tropez, lie on the beach, make wondrous love." Really? I'm fairly sure this entire thing was shot on a backlot, and do not even get me started on the madcap kitchen scene, the concept of which is great but ruined by the chef's ridiculous, over the top reactions. I could go on and on about the end, too, but I think I've said enough. From the pate' to the bouillabaisse to the concept of the cardinal to the ruse in the bedroom, this whole episode is a mess. And weird. Just so very weird.
Hart to Hart: A New Kind of High (1979)
Go Directly to Jail. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200
I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, J&J are positively adorable in every way. From one scene to the next they delight in each other. Watching them love being with each other so much is why we as fans love them so much. This is our first Undercover Jennifer episode. The look on Jonathan's face when she walks in with the wig is absolutely worth the price of admission. I mean, it's really, really funny. RJ's expressions are the perfect counterpoint to Stefanie's look and manner. Now, the whole undercover thing is really all very contrived, but I don't care, and neither will you, cuz it's so freaking amusing. The next thing that slayed me was the drive home with Jonathan altered by equal parts drunk as a skunk and high as a kite. Of course, if I'd had coffee out of that heinous '70's mug I'd probably end up altered, too. But RJ and Stefanie delivered big time for that drive home. A lot of physicality that had to have been really challenging and really a blast. The best, however, was how they related to each other after he's come down from the drug. No dramatics, just their relationship. She's cool as a cucumber and a little amused as she sits by his bedside (in a lovely outfit with her hair up for reasons unclear). He's feeling contrite and hung over, and so grateful for her. It's a lovely, lovely scene, and it's my favorite of the entire episode.
Not so great was the completely inconsistent direction. When it was good it was great; when it was bad it sucked. For instance, when Max answers the phone in the first block, we don't hear the doctor's end of the conversation until the second or third exchange. Then we hear it, but not Max, then we don't hear him again. That's just lazy, weird direction. I also think they were still finding their way with who the Max character really was. Last episode he's barely able to afford $100 earrings, before that he was rolling in pimp dough undercover with the hookers; now he's back to Moneybags with a wad of cash to rival any bulge those pants will sport. The dialogue was great ("are you keeping track?" "Every penny."), but it did make me wonder if they knew where they were going with Max.
BLOOPER ALERT --> In the very first establishing shot of the lab, the Hart's yellow Mercedes is parked there. Only they don't drive up and park there until a few scenes later. This is what happens when you film out of order so that you can get all the scenes in the same location done at the same time. Which is standard and efficient both procedurally and financially. But you really must have that attn to detail as a director to make sure things are not in the shot that aren't supposed to be there yet. This seems like a rookie mistake, but he was far from a newbie, as he was mid-way thru his working director career by this time. It was just lazy. Finally, I really think the buyer character (listed as "The Man" was woefully out of place. The actor is credited with exactly three roles, and the way he played this really took away from the episode IMO. The director could have fixed this, but I think this was a get 'em in, get 'em out gig for him. Now incorporating the bar mitzvah made me exceedingly happy, but it was also smart, because those take place on Saturdays, which is a tiny detail lending credence to why the lab is empty. I know this is a long review, but I have to tell you, once I got over the shock of hearing the word asbestos tossed around like its not a cancer-causing material, I then got an ancient look at a knee-high stocking, the likes of which I've not seen live and in person since I bought a bunch of them from Walgreens to make Mandrakes for my son's Harry Potter bday party.
The only part of this ep I remembered from the first time around was the wind machine. Picky picky, I know, but more lazy direction was why they didn't turn the fans way up, cuz their hair does not match the force with which the wind is purportedly keeping them back. But ya know what, it's all worth it, cu look, it finally rained in California, and Jonathan MacGuyvered themselves out of danger. The final shot of Max in his Star of David apron and J&J sick in bed was perfect. And, if they don't want their chicken soup, I do.
Hart to Hart: Max in Love (1979)
This is the first of a series of episodes we'll see over the five seasons of H2H that feature Max. This, like a good handful of them, are about the loves of Max's life. The lovely character actress, Madlyn Rhue is the first we'll see, she won't be the last. It was so good to see her again. She died of complications of MS, and you can clearly see the effects of it on her actively impacting her at times in this episode. For instance, you can see in her gait how hard it is for her to walk in the park scenes with Max. It just kind of makes me that happy kind of sad to watch her. This episode is chock full of guest stars that just made me swoon with nostalgia and excitement. In addition to Rhue, Rene Auborjonois of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Boston Legal, and the beloved Daniel J. Travanti in what has to be his very last role before Hill Street, lit up the screen.
Once I got past the giddy and actually watched the thing, I got pretty swept up. This was the first real Max-centric episode, and it set the bar for the rest. You immediately feel a fierce protectiveness over Max the second his quest for the (hideous) earrings begins, because you just know something is up. Sure enough, there's a scam being run on the Harts, they're running it via the big, unselfish heart of their Max, and we as the viewers want to jump through the screen and pummel them for him. Not because he's being used, but because his heart is being broken.
Something I rarely notice so acutely is the musical score. But in the scene just after the auction, Jonathan is making funny faces, and every time he does, the music played under it punctuates it. I really appreciated that creative interpretation, and it really spelled out in a tangible way how the orchestras are scoring in real time with the scenes playing; it gives it all so much more depth. Other little things I enjoyed were Jonathan driving Max around, their dialogue, kibitzing, and talking about whether they "like the girl" or not, Jonathan not being above using his poor-man's coffeepot, and the line, "Hello, my pretties." CONTINUITY ALERT --> It's established here that when the Harts met, Jonathan was doing the chasing. That's not how it eventually ended up. I know, picky picky. More pickiness, Lionel palms that gun real well for being out cold, and in the hospital ward, heavy use of extreme closeups that seems really out of place and strange. The Absurd Line of the Night Award goes to the truck driver, who yells at his partner to "go on up there and get him!" As if it's no biggie to climb up to the roof of a moving truck to engage in fisticuffs.
In the end, this episode is about Max and the absolute devotion he and the Harts have to each other. Nothing exemplifies this more than when Max says, "You two when you look at each other
That's the way I thought she looked at me." His heartbreak is so stoic. Which makes it worse for us, worse for them, and bonds us as the viewer to this unique, believable, relatable relationship between the three of them.
Hart to Hart: Cop Out (1979)
Hookers do not faze the Harts
I love that this is a very early episode, because it establishes an extremely important element for the Harts one which the entire rest of the series would revisit like a golden rule over and over and over again. And that's that they're altruistic people who care about you no matter who you are. They care so much that they'll risk their reputations and lives to help you. For no other reason than it's the right thing to do. Nothing could exemplify that more than J&J working their asses off to protect prostitutes from a serial killer. And they're not high-priced callgirls, either, they're street hookers. In 1979 to care this much about a hooker without so much as a thought to how it would look when you're as important as Jonathan Hart, that says something very important about who he is. It was very progressive for its time, and frankly, it's progressive now. The episode opens on a pair of red shoes that I must have. Since I'm highly unlikely to procure them, I'll move on. You know where this is going very quickly, and soon the doomed Markie Post is asking the Harts for help. This one's not a mystery, though, as we know whodunit almost immediately; it's a character study. We get to experience some investment into who these people are, then suffer the thrilling suspense as we watch it unfold. The altruism is apparent when the girls put their faith the Hart's to try to help influence the police to care. The cops see the terrified prostitutes as the invisible people, but Jennifer doesn't, and neither does Jonathan. Richard Herd is totally effective as the arrogant and unlikeable Sargent. Now, don't get me wrong, the way J&J nag and manipulate him into letting them enter the crime scene is absurd, even by 1979's standards I've never seen more ridiculous evidence collection as the two of them contaminate the crime scene in every way imaginable but, this is H2H, so you just let that all go and enjoy what you're given. Like the Sargent's consternation-cum- witty banter with J&J, which grows on you. Max is given quite a lot to do in this episode, and it's so freaking good I could not look away. From the moment he enters the bar in a tapestry, thru all his scene work with the excellent guest stars, all the way to his possibly post-coital hot mess breakfast bedhead, the man stole the show. Especially while sitting at the actual bar with the two guest stars. OMG, Lionel was perfection. A very close runner-up to my Max love in this ep is Jennifer as she openly sits with the known hookers at the restaurant. Let's remember, it's 1979, she's that day's 1%, and she is sitting in a booth at a coffee shop in broad daylight with three known street-walkers, two of whom looking every bit the street they're walking, and kibitzing with them. She does not care one iota what other people may think. Even when a guy tries to pick her up, she's not offended or embarrassed she's amused. And it's played with authenticity that makes you love her. Not so great? Set design is wack. The naked dancing lady pillows are actually quite inspired, but the brown teddy bear is not. If you're going to have Jonathan discover a single, errant, red hair, then make the bear white, cuz ain't no one seein' that hair on the brown bear. I also could not get past the retired pimp. Read that again. Retired. Pimp. What, now? They wrote that whole thing like it was a legitimate career he'd just gotten the goodbye party for and dressed him like Grandpa. No, no, no, no. NO. I also have to call out a bit of a plot hole in that the Killer knows his Mark(ie), but then he's shocked her red hair is a wig. Yes, it's conceivable that he thought she'd colored her hair, but whatever. Knocking a point off for that, as well as the insane loosie goosieness of the crime scene process. On the other hand, I come back to the hair on Max. It must be celebrated. Twice in this episode, it is seriously somethin' else. And all kidding aside, it's touches like this that bring a reality and believability to his character. But overall, the important thing in all this is the statement about the value of human lives to the Harts. Truly awesome episode.